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Oh. My. Gosh. (Part Deux)

I'm done.

After the thrills of yesterday, we were all wondering, "How could they top this?"

Somehow, some way, this Cub team, which has soared to the heights and hit the depths, today put together what is perhaps the greatest team effort that I have ever seen from a Cubs team.

This despite Dusty Baker's best efforts to make some of the most boneheaded moves I have ever seen from a Cubs manager, moves that made me wonder if he was even watching the same game we were. Dusty, by the way, you are forgiven, since the Cubs won yet another -- what shall I call it to raise a further superlative? -- incredible game, 8-7 over the Cardinals today.

And maybe we've hit on a new formula -- make Moises Alou really mad with boneheaded umpiring calls, so that he takes that aggressiveness out on the opposing pitchers. Alou was the hero today, going 5-for-5 with a homer and four RBI; I hope he keeps channeling this the rest of the season.

But it wasn't just Alou. There were so many heroes... Sammy Sosa starting the first rally with a double. Aramis Ramirez and Alex Gonzalez homering also. Randall Simon stabbing a line drive at first base. Mark Grudzielanek, in the game for only one inning, tripling in the tying run and scoring the winning run on Alou's single.

You knew the game was important to Tony LaRussa, too. Jason Isringhausen was spent after throwing two days in a row, so Woody Williams, who started two days ago, came in to throw the 8th, and he didn't have it, and that's the lucky move for the Cubs. LaRussa rolled the dice and lost. Yes, I can come up with some more cliches, just give me a minute, I'm just getting on a roll.

First, let me throw a bit of a wet blanket by describing the moves of Dusty Baker that led us to believe that a poorly housetrained dog might be running the team today.

Yes, the bullpen is spent. But why put Felix Sanchez in the game, to make his ML debut, in a situation like this? And why then leave him in, when he obviously wasn't throwing anywhere near the plate, to give up the grand slam to J. D. Drew? I said to everyone after that, "It's over." Well, it felt like that, anyway. The ballpark was very quiet -- that took the crowd of 32,710 right out of the game, sucked all the air out on a very pleasant day, or so it seemed.

But the move that had Scott Lange (and that's two absolutely astounding games that my fellow blogger and I have shared in the bleachers this week) and myself, and Howard and Dave and Jeff, all screaming at Dusty, was pinch-hitting Doug Glanville for Ramon Martinez in the sixth, with the bases loaded, three runs already in, and Tony LaRussa then putting in a right-hander.


The situation screamed out for Tony Womack (who was going to have to go into the game anyway), but Dusty let Glanville hit, and of course he grounded into a force play on the first pitch.

As I said, the rest of the team picked Glanville (and Dusty) up with two more heart-pounding rallies (see, told you I'd get back to "high" on the cliche-meter), and again, as so many times this week, the ballpark was absolutely rocking with playoff intensity, and I don't know if I've ever heard it as loud as it was when Joe Borowski finished it off with a flourish, striking out Edgar Renteria and then Jim Edmonds (who was pinch-hitting, having been scratched from the lineup with the sore knee he hurt yesterday) to end the game. Oddly, there had been only four strikeouts combined before that, strange because even on bad days, the Cub staff usually strikes out eight or ten.

So, the Cubs stand half a game behind the Cardinals, even in the loss column, and will be tied with Houston if the Dodgers can beat the Astros later tonight.

I love being in the bleachers any day. But when the games really mean something, everyone gets into the game, every pitch, every batter, and forgets about the "drunken beach party" idea that can sometimes be the case when the Cubs are 20 games out. That's the way it should be every day.

Tomorrow, I presume Dusty will indeed go with Shawn Estes, though Juan Cruz didn't throw today in situations where he might have been useful, so Baker might actually go to the very last minute before deciding. Winning four of five -- well, we can dream, can't we?

Just so you know, I warned Howard to be the first one to call security when I have the heart attack that this team is about to give all of us. I wish I could describe to you the feeling -- maybe you can feel it from the TV broadcast, but being in the ballpark when it's rocking like that is -- well, frankly, it's beyond any words I can put here. And I know some of you are feeling it, because I got an e-mail from Jessica in New York today with the subject line (and I repeat it here exactly as she wrote it): I CAN'T TAKE THIS

And finally, Jeff, whose hair is most times nearly as short as mine, says he's not getting a haircut till the Cubs are eliminated. We all are hoping that by late October, he'll have a ponytail. Also, Scott and I had a photo taken by Jeff with Scott's camera (Jeff has been elected Official Photographer of the Right Field Bleachers), and he'll post it on the Northside Lounge, and after he e-mails it to me, I'll post it here too.

Hope is not only alive, it is dancing tonight.